JUST three days after the government of Rwanda hiked road toll for Tanzanian registered trucks by over 200 per cent, the old rates have been reinstated pending negotiations between the two governments.
Rwanda had effective September 1, this year, hiked road toll (also known as user transit charge) for trucks from Tanzania by a whopping 228 per cent from 152 USD (about 243,000/-) to 500 USD (800,000/-).
However, the Deputy Minister for Transport, Dr Charles Tizeba said that the old rates have been restored as the two countries were still deliberating on the matter.
Dr Tizeba said he had engaged the Rwanda's Minister of Transport, Prof Silas Lwakabamba and agreed that the new charges be put on hold for now.
According to sources close to the Tanzania Truck Owners Association (TATOA), the new charges have been suspended for a week to pave way for negotiations between the two countries which are member states of the East African Community (EAC). Other EAC members are Burundi, Kenya and Uganda.
"I contacted the Rwandan minister after I received complaints from transporters. On the first instance, Prof Lwakabamba said he was unaware of the development.
"He then called me back after sometime and said that the new rates were instructions given to customs officials by Rwanda's Minister for Finance and Planning, Claver Gatete," Dr Tizeba said.
Rwanda has been complaining on what it describes as higher charges by Tanzanian authorities on trucks that are not registered in the country.
Tanzania charges 6 USD for smaller vehicles (axle 2 and 3) per 100 km. Vehicles exceeding axle load 4 attract a road toll of 16 USD per 100 kilometres on Tanzanian roads.
At first, Rwanda used to charge 16 USD per 100km in reciprocal with Tanzania before it introduced a flat rate of 152 USD and eventually 500 USD which became effective on last last Sunday. The Southern African Development Community (SADC), which Tanzania is a member has proposed a rate of 8 USD per 100km.
Meanwhile, the Director of Tanzania Information Services (Maelezo), Mr Assah Mwambene, has trashed press reports in some sections of media in Kenya suggesting that Tanzania is not fully committed to the East African integration agenda. In the reports, it was alleged that Tanzania had refused to sell some of its natural gas to Kenya and instead chose to sell it to 'China.'
"It is unfair to insinuate that Tanzania has refused to sell gas to Kenya because the amount that is currently transported from Songosongo to Dar es Salaam is just 105 million cubic feet which has not met our demand for power and industrial production," Mr Mwambene said.
The press reports also went on to accuse Tanzania of refusing to sell food to Kenya when the country was facing food shortage and also for not allowing planes to land at its airports when the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) was gutted by fire recently.
"We are sorry for what happened at JKIA but it should also be noted that after the incident some of the planes were diverted to the nearby Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) in Tanzania.
It is so surprising to hear that we rejected the aircraft," he explained. Mr Mwambene, who by virtue of his position is the government spokesperson, made the clarification while briefing journalists in Dar es Salaam.
Regarding the refusal to sell maize, Mr Mwambene explained that due to food shortage in Tanzania and some other countries in the region, it decided to impose an export ban for maize in order to ensure there was adequate stock of the cereal locally.
"The way it was written in the media was like we had refused to sell food to Kenya and instead sold it to Uganda. It is not true at all. The export ban was aimed at ensuring food security at home," Mr Mwambene stressed.
Meanwhile, Mr Mwambene also said some 22,000 illegal immigrants have so far gone back to their countries of origin following a directive by President Jakaya Kikwete that the aliens should voluntarily leave the country or risk being driven out forcefully.
He went on to explain that those who were ordered to leave the country were illegal immigrants from neighbouring countries and not refugees.
Speaking at the same occasion, the Chairperson of Tanzania Chapter of MPs in the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Mr Adam Kimbisa hailed President Kikwete for the decision to kick-out illegal immigrants in the country.